Mark Brumby's Cultural June

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Mark Brumby’s Cultural June

Hello again from a London that seems to have decided summer in the UK features steady rain and periodic single-digit temperatures.

It might brighten up, of course but, at the moment, the ‘phew, what a scorcher’ headlines have been put on hold and the drought has, once again, ended in an apparent drowning.

Elsewhere, normality may be on the horizon but, looking at the empty trains, pavements and the like, it isn’t here yet. The pubs are busy with the football but pretty quiet otherwise and, at £6.35 per pint (of Camden Pale Ale), in London at least, one can quite see why.

So, away from the day-job, what’s been going on?

The world of books

As we’ve mentioned before, you would need a few dozen lifetimes just to put a dent in the list of good books out there, but we’re having a go. In June, we made a (slow) start on A Tale of Two Cities but actually managed to finish the following.

The Basic Laws of Stupidity – Carlo Cipolla – 1976

Cipolla says that stupidity is a ‘powerful & dark force’.

We were interested to investigate just how and why stupid people do what they do.

Cipolla (above), in his paper, says that stupidity is a ‘powerful & dark force’. He looks at the phenomenon under four amusing headings.

Law One. There are more stupid people than you think. Pick a number. Then make it much, much bigger. Then double it and start again.

Law Two. People are born stupid. It’s an ‘indiscriminate privilege’. Class & education have nothing to do with it. Don’t be fooled by an accent, by a college degree or by a title.

Law Three. Stupid people (unlike criminals) are perfectly capable of making you worse off without any consequent gain to themselves. They ‘are super-stupid’ and seem to be on a mission to impoverish.

Law Four. Stupid people make awful business, political or life partners. You will be ‘pulverised by their unpredictable moves’ and worn down by the consistency of their stupidity.

Cipolla concludes that you will ‘always underestimate the damaging power’ of stupid people and cautions that they will always be with us.

Boris – Andrew Gimson – 2006 (with updates)

Billing himself a ‘friend’, Mr Gimson labels our illustrious leader an unreliable, selfish chancer.

Billing himself a ‘friend’, Mr Gimson labels our illustrious leader an unreliable, selfish chancer.

He maintains that Mr Johnson is intelligent and is capable of hard work but deems boredom almost a capital offence and finds routine quickly stifling. Mr Johnson is ‘useless at running things’, has problems with the truth, is disloyal and duplicitous but, considered by the author at least to be a redeeming feature, he is always interesting.

The words of Mr Johnson himself, that you should rely on deluded stooges to do your work for you, you should play to their vanity and give their dull lives meaning, speaks volumes about some of his closest supporters.

Camino Island – John Grisham – 2017

You get what you pay for and Camino Island features heists, dastardly deeds and duplicity.

A reliable & professional author capable of interesting and insightful work, Mr Grisham hardly needs me to introduce him.

You get what you pay for and Camino Island features heists, dastardly deeds and duplicity.

It holds the attention throughout and, as it deals also with various literary goings on as well as the legal implications thereof, Grisham is very much on home ground.

What’s on film?

With the football on the telly and the pubs open, we’ve not been very active on the film front. But here’s one:

Little Shop of Horrors – 1986

Having confused this with The Rocky Horror Show for several decades, I was finally persuaded to watch it last month and, averse as I am at most times to musicals, I surprised myself by finding it thoroughly enjoyable.

The premise – a singing alien carnivorous plant rescues the finances of a small flower shop – is as ludicrous as I had expected but the cast threw themselves into it with a passion and Steve Martin had a wonderful cameo as a sadistic dentist. His keynote song features advice from his mother:

You have a talent for causing things pain

Son, be a dentist

People will pay you to be inhumane

Son, be a dentist

Bill Murray’s masochistic patient was a treat and, if nothing else, it did persuade me to throw out a couple of our larger house plants.

And on television?

Terrestrial TV comes into its own when the football’s on but, as The Beautiful Game is a bit Marmite, we’ll keep this shortish (extra time may be needed).

The 2020 Euros (played, summer 2021): 

We’re writing this after England beat Denmark in the closest of matches. And we’re in the final. But only just.

I was lulled into a false sense of security when the Ukraine fixture was that rarest of treats, an England match that you could enjoy.

You didn’t have to watch it through threaded fingers or, reminiscent of the Dr Who’s from the early-70s, from behind the settee as, with a goal in the bag from the early minutes and a hatful in the second half, it was a treat to watch.

The Spain / Italy semi-final was a thriller and the final on Sunday promises more of the same.

Overall, it has been a great comp at just the right time. The own goals earlier in the competition added some spice, the tears and the triumphs have been real (especially for Denmark and Christian).

There is one match to go and we could be burying the ghosts of 1966! And coming home might ring true too.

Food & drink

When on holiday in Osmotherley earlier in the month, we had dinner in a pub with chancellor Rishi Sunak

As mentioned above, hospitality is now open indoors and, when on holiday in Osmotherley earlier in the month, we had dinner in a pub with chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Or, let me put it differently, we had dinner in the same pub as Rishi Sunak was having dinner. Osmotherley is in his (vast) constituency and he appeared to be known to the management. And, I kid you not, the table next to us had a major swoon (‘I must text my son, he absolutely adores Rishi’) and then doubled up with another table to work themselves into a frenzy that concluded the parting comment ‘he’s so intelligent and young and rich and good looking’.

I had, naturally, thought they were talking about me and, except for the intelligent, young and rich bit – and the good-looking part – it was accurate.


At a crossroads? The new normal?

As we write, we’re at a crossroads of sorts.

Many if not most things will go back to ‘normal’ on 19 July and, with PM Boris Johnson being criticised in both The Daily Mail and The Guardian this morning (in the one for the ‘insanity’ of isolation and in the other for reckless reopening), it feels as though he is doing either a) something right or b) everything wrong. For a hint as to the answer, see book review, above.

Holidays later this month, more on that next time out.